Born and raised in the beautiful mountain landscapes of Colorado, Tune Founder, and co-founder and former president of Backcountry Access Bruno McGowan is a native to both the outdoors and outdoor activities.
Growing up with two parents who were ski instructors, McGowan was skiing by the time he could walk. He recalls that at age ten, he and his family “would hike from the top of Winter Park over to Mary Jane and ski fresh powder. This was years before the first lifts were installed in Mary Jane. We would also hike up Berthoud pass and Loveland pass and build jumps anywhere we could get on snow.”
Around the same time, McGowan’s dad, “Dude” built innovative small and lightweight fiberglass kayaks for the kids. Shortly after, river trips became his favorite outdoor activity. “Not only do you get to play in waves while floating through spectacular canyon scenery, you make camp inside the canyon. Absolutely spectacular. We would always camp near a rapid so we could enjoy the sound and action. Having a surf wave next to camp is living large!”
Further, he notes that it was a combination of “boating, skiing, and being with family and friends in beautiful places that gave me the bug for the outdoors.”
When McGowan got older, he, his brother and his business partner, Bruce Edgerly, started BCA (Backcountry Access), which rapidly became a leader in snow-safety products. “We started in my garage with the Alpine Trekker ski touring adaptor in 1997, and expanded to a full line of innovative avalanche safety devices. Our big break came when boating buddy, John Hereford, invented the Tracker DTS, the world’s first digital (and easy to use) avalanche beacon. This led to us us to innovations and leadership in airbags, radios, freeze-proof hydration, etc. We brought a uniquely American approach to a category previously dominated by European imports. In a sense, we created the category in North America by giving strong margins, service, education and innovation to the industry.”
The origins of Backcountry Access first began in the mountains of St. Anton, Austria back in 1985 and 1986. McGowan was studying abroad in southern Germany as an undergrad at CU Boulder, located four hours north of St. Anton. He spent all of his free time and even some “class time” in the Alps of Austria with his siblings, at first directly off the lifts, then later hiking and ski touring.
He explains, “There’s no ski-area boundaries in the Alps and infinite terrain is easily accessible from the lifts. Ski-touring gear at the time was not designed for aggressive skiing, and in the US, backcountry was defined by telemark. Our first slogan was, learn at the areas, ski in the backcountry. We wanted to make backcountry skiing much more accessible by offering products aimed at alpine touring.”
In recent years, it was the Tune M1 truck bed pop up topper project that inspired McGowan, noting in particular the great design, process, and team. Having designed multiple projects for BCA with Tune Founder Ryan Bricker in the past, Ryan and his partner/Tune Founder Kristian approached McGowan two years ago with their vision for Tune Outdoor.
“I was impressed right away with their vision, design, and approach. There are many things to consider with good product design, but it always starts with creative industrial design and a sound business case. Tune has this in its DNA,” says McGowan.
As the Tune M1 topper began to take shape, he states that it was the design and manufacturability of the product that made it stand out among similar truck bed toppers. “They're connected,” he says. “The M1 is the first lightweight camper design to use patent pending composite injected corner brackets holding together an extruded aluminum frame. This is the key. It opens the door for significant design innovation, easy serviceability and streamlined manufacturing.”
After years of exploration and activity, McGowan believes outdoor adventures are foundational to both his health and well-being, especially when it comes to work/life balance. He encourages those interested in the outdoors to hang out with other fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
As for the future of Tune Outdoor, he is confident in saying, “We intend to become a leader in the lightweight topper camper and accessory market through leadership in reliability, value, innovation, customer service, and trust. If we focus on these values, the sky is the limit for Tune.”